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Seven arrested over $2m Holden parts theft racket

Stolen property: Police have identified and/or recovered 30 V8 engines and 103 transmissions believed stolen from Holden’s Elizabeth factory, leaving 110 engines and 72 transmissions unaccounted for.

Holden employee among seven people arrested in factory V8 engine, gearbox heist

General News logo26 Jul 2012

By TERRY MARTIN

A HOLDEN employee is among seven people arrested and charged for their alleged involvement in the theft and sale of engines and transmissions worth more than $2 million from the company’s Elizabeth assembly plant in South Australia.

Operating under a special taskforce codenamed Operation Echidna, South Australian police are continuing to work with Holden to recover the engines and components after an internal audit at the car-maker discovered 140 V8 engines, both 6.0-litre and 6.2-litre, and 175 heavy-duty transmissions were missing and believed stolen.

SA Police this week revealed that the investigation had identified and/or recovered 30 of the V8 engines and 103 transmissions, all of which were known to have come directly from the Elizabeth plant.

Investigators have been focusing on locating and identifying the stolen stock and then following the purchase trail, which to date has led them to various locations in South Australia, the Northern Territory, New South Wales and Queensland.

As well as seizing individual components, police are understood to have taken in a V8-powered Commodore as an exhibit.

 center imageFrom top: One of the stolen engines Holden's Elizabeth plant.

The seven arrested face money laundering and theft charges and include five men and one woman from South Australia – ranging in ages from 26 to 47 – and a 40-year-old man from the Gold Coast.

The first of the arrests was on June 27 and the latest on July 24. Holden has confirmed that one of its employees was arrested last Tuesday night.

All have been bailed to appear in the Elizabeth Magistrates Court on Wednesday, August 22.

SA Police’s Organised Crime Investigation Branch began enquiries in January this year following a police search of premises in Salisbury East, in Adelaide’s northern suburbs, which uncovered two Holden V8 engines, still in their shipping crates.

Police will allege that the thefts took place over two years. Police also believe that some of those arrested took part in the transportation and distribution of the items and used bank accounts to manage funds raised as a result of the sales.

The officer in charge of the Organised Crime Investigation Branch, Detective Superintendent Peter Harvey, said the engines and transmissions were sold in a variety of ways including on eBay and word-of-mouth, while some purchasers were solicited directly via email.

“We are not ruling out further arrests,” he said. “Enquiries are continuing to identify engines and transmissions purchased by members of the public.

“The investigators have received large amounts of useful information from the public, employees at GMH, and people involved in the motorsport industry.

“I encourage anyone with a 6.0-litre or 6.2-litre Holden V8 engine or a transmission, who bought them in circumstances which might raise some suspicions about their origin, or anyone with information regarding the thefts to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.”

In a statement, Holden said the parts heist appeared to be “high-level, sophisticated criminal fraud” and that it would “continue its internal investigation and collaborate with police on this matter”.

The company also admitted it had “identified certain areas in which we can further tighten both inventory controls and security measures” as a result of the internal and police investigation.

However, Holden manufacturing executive director Richard Phillips emphasised that the Australian car-maker’s inventory tracking and audit systems were “robust and in line with global and GM standards”.

“These systems make the attempted theft of parts easily detectable and rare,” he said.

“Incidences such as this one, allegedly involving an employee with intimate knowledge of our systems and the means to circumvent them, are very unusual.

“With close to 500,000 parts flowing in and out of GM Holden’s Elizabeth facility every day, our tracking and audit systems are highly developed.

“In an operation of this scale, a small number of unaccounted-for parts does not, and should not, lead to immediate accusations of theft towards our employees.

“GM Holden followed prescribed internal checks and audit procedures to establish the facts before launching an investigation and taking further appropriate action in conjunction with the South Australian police.”

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